After 15 years of research into the toll of repeated head traumas on the brain, Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center has changed the conversation around contact sports, shifted the viewing experience for many fans, and led important breakthroughs.

The latest came in December 2021, when BU researchers revealed that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) might have the potential to help spot CTE in the living. Currently, the disease can only be confirmed after death. Scientists reviewed MRI images of the brains of 55 men who were diagnosed with CTE postmortem—but who’d been scanned while alive—and spotted shrinkage in patterns that didn’t present in males of the same age with normal cognition.

“It has been amazing to see the growth of our research programs in neuroscience, particularly over the past five years. Our faculty are on the cutting edge of developing new technologies and techniques, as well as applying them in unique ways.” — Gloria Waters,
Vice President and Associate Provost for Research

“MRI is commonly used to diagnose progressive brain diseases that are similar to CTE, such as Alzheimer’s disease,” says Michael Alosco, an associate professor of neurology and CTE Center lead investigator. “Findings from this study show us what we can expect to see on MRI in CTE. This is very exciting because it brings us that much closer to detecting CTE in living people.”